"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

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Scientist: “Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled” – Global CO2 Emissions Just Breached 410ppm, Level Unseen In Millions Of Years

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Click to enlarge.

 

Oldspeak:” Just 4 years ago, we watched Earth’s CO2 levels rocket past 400ppm and now quite a short time later we’re at 410ppm, and levels are ACCELERATING. “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last ice age…This is a real shock to the atmosphere.” The changes to Earth’s climate are occurring at a pace that cannot be adapted to with known current technology. We are experiencing an atmosphere that has not existed on earth for millions of years. Can we really expect carbon levels to “level off” any time soon, given the current political and economic conditions? And if by some miracle that even happens,  the effects of are expected to extend hundreds of years into the future. Pretty depressing, indeed. Happy 4/20! PUFF PUFF GIVE KIDS!” -OSJ

 

Written By Brian Kahn @ Climate Central:

The world just passed another round-numbered climate milestone. Scientists predicted it would happen this year and lo and behold, it has.

On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate.

In what’s become a spring tradition like Passover and Easter, carbon dioxide has set a record high each year since measurements began. It stood at 280 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm. Just four years later, the 400 ppm mark is no longer a novelty. It’s the norm.

“Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton told Climate Central last month. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.”

Earlier this year, U.K. Met Office scientists issued their first-ever carbon dioxide forecast. They projected carbon dioxide could reach 410 ppm in March and almost certainly would by April. Their forecast has been borne out with Tuesday’s daily record. They project that the monthly average will peak near 407 ppm in May, setting a monthly record.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two years due to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.

“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”

Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.

All of these impacts will last longer and intensify into the future even if we cut carbon emissions. But we face a choice of just how intense they become based on when we stop polluting the atmosphere.

Right now we’re on track to create a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.

Human Climate Impact Now Reaches High Into Stratosphere, Disrupting Giant Jet Streams, As Earth Warms

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 4:31 pm
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Over the Gulf of Alaska: The long band is probably the remains of a jet stream cloud. Image: Courtesy of NASA Johnson Space Center via Wikimedia Commons

Oldspeak: “Warming driven by carbon dioxide emissions from car exhausts and power stations, they argue, tends to make these giant oscillating waves stall in their journey around the hemisphere – to create enduring episodes of high and low pressure and lingering hazards of drought and flood.” –Tim Radford

“Yep, heedless human activities are fucking with multiple critical planetary cycles; the water cycle, the biogeochemical cycle come most readily to mind.  Add this one to the list. To anyone living in Syria, California, Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia this isn’t really news, it’s been the new normal for some time now. Devastating 1,000 year floods. Crippling and persistent drought. Extreme climactic changes in the blink of any eye. Expect this trend to continue & the weather events to intensify as human & natural carbon emissions are steadily increasing globally with no end in sight.” -OSJ

 

Written By Tim Radford @ Inside Climate News:

The warming of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is slowing the jet streams which drive the northern hemisphere’s weather, scientists say. 

LONDON, 9 April, 2017 – Researchers have once again linked a sequence of devastating climate events to global warming fuelled by prodigal human use of fossil fuels. And this time, they believe they have identified the agency behind the blazing summers that have claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods repeatedly during this century.

They argue in the journal Scientific Reports that human impact on the climate now reaches high into the stratosphere, to influence the behaviour patterns of the giant jet streams that carry heat and moisture around the northern hemisphere, and keep the weather on the move.

Warming driven by carbon dioxide emissions from car exhausts and power stations, they argue, tends to make these giant oscillating waves stall in their journey around the hemisphere – to create enduring episodes of high and low pressure and lingering hazards of drought and flood.

“The unprecedented 2016 California drought, the 2011 US heatwave and 2010 Pakistan flood as well as the 2003 European hot spell all belong to a most worrying series of extremes,” says Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity”

“The increased incidence of these events exceeds what we would expect from the direct effects of global warming alone, so there must be an additional climate change effect. In data from computer simulations as well as observations, we identify changes that favour unusually persistent, extreme meanders of the jet stream that support such extreme weather events.

“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity.”

Professor Mann has repeatedly confirmed the link between human action and climate change. His co-author Dim Coumou of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the VU University in Amsterdam in the Netherlands has separately linked storm tracks to surface temperature extremesmade a connection between torrential rains and planetary warming, and confirmed too that less stormy weather is not necessarily a good sign, because it could be the harbinger of heat waves.

And the researchers now have support for their their suspicions: the jet streams that sweep the hemisphere in huge atmospheric waves, plunging between Arctic and tropics, bring changes of weather.

If they should stall, one region may be committed to long drought, dangerous hot weather (as in Russia in 2010 and Texas in 2011) and even forest fires as in California in 2015) – or, in some cases, catastrophic and sustained rainfall of the kind that flooded Pakistan in 2010.

Questions remain

No single extreme event could ever be satisfactorily and conclusively linked to a long-term trend like global warming. But once scientists register an increasing frequency of such events, they can start to use climate simulations to see if such events become more likely in a warming world.

“The more frequent persistent and meandering jet stream state seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, which makes it even more relevant,” said Dr Coumou. “We certainly need to further investigate this – there is some good evidence, but also many open questions.”

And Professor Mann said: “The warming of the Arctic, the polar amplification of warming, plays a key role here. The surface and lower atmosphere are warming more in the Arctic than anywhere else on the globe.

“That pattern projects onto the very temperature gradient profile that we identify as supporting atmospheric waveguide conditions.” – Climate News Network

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Faster Than Ever Depletion Of Global Groundwater Stores, Largest Freshwater Stock On Earth, Threatens Sustainability Of Food Production, Water & Food Security

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 8:37 pm
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Vast quantities of groundwater are used in Pakistan to irrigate crops such as rice. Image: Abbrar Cheema via Flickr

Oldspeak: “The study’s authors say excessive abstraction of groundwater for irrigation – part of the wider virtual water trade – is leading to rapid depletion of aquifers in key food-producing regions, including north-western India, the North China Plain, central US, and California.

Our research shows that unless both consumers and producers agree to adopt strategies that maximise the long-term sustainability of water use, most of the world’s population risks seeing increased food prices or disrupted food supply. Our work shows where trade flows are contributing to the unsustainable, and ultimately potentially dangerous, use of water resources. The use of non-renewable water in one place can put food supply in distant regions at risk…”

Annnnd, we’re still running out of freshwater worldwide. Largely due to our toxic and unsustainable food & energy production practices. No real discussion of strategies for degrowth or significant conservation. Those options would require industrial civilization to produce less stuff. We know that in really existing capitalist democracy (kleptorcracy really.) that’s not an option. Hence, no more water in geologically short order. Drink UP! ” -OSJ

 

By Alex Kirby @ Climate News Network:

Global use of irreplaceable groundwater is exhausting the supply so fast that researchers say it will drive up food prices and hit international trade.

LONDON, 2 April, 2017 – China, the world’s most populous country, doubled within just 10 years its use of irreplaceable groundwater from underground reservoirs that are replenished more slowly than they are drained.

And in the same decade, 2000 to 2010, global use of this non-renewable water resource for irrigation increased by a quarter, according to a new study published in Nature journal.

The research suggests that unless producers and consumers of food make changes, this trend could lead to depleted water reserves, limited availability of food imports, and higher food prices.

Groundwater – from underground supplies, as opposed to water in rivers or lakes – supplies global agriculture with 43% of its crop irrigation needs.

The country exporting the most crops produced using irreplaceable groundwater is Pakistan, with 29% of global non-renewable sources embedded in trade – closely followed by the US (27%), with India (12%) in third place.

Groundwater abstraction

The study’s authors say excessive abstraction of groundwater for irrigation – part of the wider virtual water trade – is leading to rapid depletion of aquifers in key food-producing regions, including north-western India, the North China Plain, central US, and California.

“This depletion of the largest liquid freshwater stock on Earth,” they write, “threatens the sustainability of food production, and water and food security, not only locally, but also globally via international food trade.

“Aquifer depletion can also induce significant environmental degradation, such as land subsidence and seawater intrusion.”

In another example of the way in which climate change works to intensify existing threats, the researchers say the depletion of local water reserves also risks putting large populations at serious danger during emergencies such as droughts, earthquakes or fires, when immediate access to water is needed.

Using UN trade data and estimates of non-renewable groundwater removal, researchers traced the sources of water used to produce agricultural crops. They found that the crops contributing most to the non-renewable groundwater trade are rice (29%), wheat (12%), cotton (11%), maize (4%) and soybeans (3%).

“Under future climate change, droughts may be
more frequent in many regions and we may want
to keep groundwater reserves for these periods”

The study was conducted by an international group of researchers led by Carole Dalin, senior research fellow with the Institute for Sustainable Resources at University College London (UCL), and including scientists at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, at NASA in the US, and colleagues in Germany.

“People are rightfully food shopping with the environment in mind more than ever before – but it is not just about meat versus vegetables, organic or fair trade,” Dr Dalin says..

“Where and how the products are grown is crucial, and basic foods like rice and bread could have a damaging impact on global water supplies.

“Our research shows that unless both consumers and producers agree to adopt strategies that maximise the long-term sustainability of water use, most of the world’s population risks seeing increased food prices or disrupted food supply.

Potentially dangerous

“Under future climate change, droughts may be more frequent in many regions and we may want to keep groundwater reserves for these periods.”

Thomas Kastner, senior scientist at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Germany and the Alpen-Adria University, Austria, says: “Our work shows where trade flows are contributing to the unsustainable, and ultimately potentially dangerous, use of water resources. The use of non-renewable water in one place can put food supply in distant regions at risk.”

Yoshihide Wada, a co-author of the report and deputy director of the IIASA Water Programme says: “The products that consumers buy at a supermarket may have very different environmental impacts depending on where they are produced and how they are irrigated.

“In order to help consumers make more sustainable choices about their food, producers should consider adding water labels that make these impacts clear.” – Climate News Network

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Over 40% Of World’s Permafrost Is At Risk Of Thawing Even If Humans Succeed In Limiting Global Warming To 2 Degrees Celsius

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 7:26 pm
Rising Seas And Warming Temperatures Force Alaskan Coastal Community To Move Inland

Thawing permafrost has communities like Newtok, Alaska literally losing the ground under their feet. Credit: Getty Images

Oldspeak: “While the civilized world is in full SHIT FIT mode after United Air “reaccommodated” a old man, The Big Cheeto bombed a deserted airfield in Syria & his idiot stepbrother/press secretary, lodged his clubbed foot down deep in his gullet with some inane Holocaust denying, this pretty much fate sealing news was reported and largely ignored in most media. Consider this life extinguishing news in the context of the stark reality articulated so honestly & eloquently by climate scientist Jason Box about 2 years ago:

Even if a small fraction of the Arctic carbon were released to the atmosphere, we’re fucked… the methane bubbles were reaching the surface. That was something new in my survey of methane bubbles. The conventional thought is that the bubbles would be dissolved before they reached the surface and that microorganisms would consume that methane, and that’s normal, but if the plumes are making it to the surface, that’s a brand new source of heat-trapping gases that we need to worry about. The Arctic is our most immediate carbon concern.

Box said, referring also to the CH4 escaping from the melting permafrost. But the sentiment can be expanded to all of climate change:

We’re on a trajectory to an unmanageable heating scenario, and we need to get off it, We’re fucked at a certain point, right? It just becomes unmanageable. The climate dragon is being poked, and eventually the dragon becomes pissed off enough to trash the place.”

So, yeah. Now about 2 years later, we’re discovering that close to 50 FUCKING PERCENT of Arctic permafrost, at least 50 GIGATONS, laden with methane hydrates, is pretty much certain to be liberated to the atmosphere, as we have ZERO CHANCE of limiting global warming to 2C. We’ve known, since 2015 that the collective pledges of nations under the much ballyhooed Paris climate agreement fall far shy of limiting emissions to 2c. Then of course there’s the  inconvenient truth that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are rising at rates unseen in the instrumental record.  In fact, it was recently reported that “If carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory, new findings show that by mid-century, the atmosphere could reach a state unseen in 50 million years. Back then, temperatures were up to 18°F (10°C) warmer, ice was almost nowhere to be seen and oceans were dramatically higher than they are now.”  We’re seeing unprecedented discharges of armadas of icebergs, from greenland right now. One week, there were 37. The next week, there were 481. In past similar events, massive discharges of icebergs porteneded nothing good. Carbon sinks are becoming less effective and switching to carbon sources throughout the global ecosystem.  The Arctic Ocean is literally turning into the Pacific ocean  it’s become so warm there right now. That methane hydrate is coming out RIGHT NOW, in KILOMETER DIAMETER PLUMES. The climate dragon is trashing the fucking place right now. The jig is up kids, not a matter of if, but when.” -OSJ

Written By Zahra Hirji @ Inside Climate News:

More than 40 percent of the world’s permafrost—landscape covered in frozen soil—is at risk of thawing even if the world succeeds in limiting global warming to the international goal of 2 degrees Celsius, according to a new study.

Currently, permafrost covers about nearly 5.8 million square miles, and scientists found as much as 2.5 million square miles of that could thaw—about twice the area of Alaska, California and Texas combined—in a 2 degree Celsius scenario. Thawing would be more limited if warming can be held to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but could still affect 1.8 million square miles.

The new research was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Permafrost contains vast amounts of carbon in the form of plants that died since the last ice age and have remained frozen rather than decomposing. When permafrost thaws, this long-trapped carbon is released into the atmosphere, further propelling future warming. A 2015 study estimated that the thawing permafrost could release up to 92 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by the century’s end.

This new study did not estimate the greenhouse gas emissions that would be released from the thawing, or how those emissions could then spur greater rates of permafrost loss in a vicious cycle.

Instead, the international team of scientists focused on how warming air temperatures would affect the extent of permafrost.

They said their calculations suggest a much more extensive loss than previously thought.

“These results alarm me because they predict even greater permafrost loss than shown in the global models for the 2°C warming target,” Kevin Schaefer, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, wrote in an email to InsideClimate News. “Even hitting the global 2°C warming target implies major impacts to people and infrastructure in the Arctic.” Schaefer was not involved in the study.

Roughly 35 million people live in permafrost zones. Collapsing ground under roads and buildings present serious risks to those communities.

“The ability to more accurately assess permafrost loss can hopefully feed into a greater understanding of the impact of global warming and potentially inform global warming policy,” said study author Eleanor Burke in a statement. Burke is a permafrost scientist at the Met Office; she conducted this study with colleagues at the University of Exeter, University of Leeds, Stockholm University and University of Oslo.

 

The Anthropocene Predicament: Human Activities Causing Earth’s Climate To Change 170 Times Faster Than Normal

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2017 at 4:31 pm

(Photo: Pexels)

Oldspeak: “Greetings fellow travelers. I’ve been draggin serious ass on posting things in this space, due in part to time constraints and other parts vacillating between bouts of generalized grief and melancholia around the state of our world. Finding myself feeling more and more frequently that I want out of this “…barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity…” Like I’m screaming into a deafening waterfall that grows larger by the day. It’s wild when these thought waves wash over me. But, at some point, as it is with all things, they pass away. Been reading the “Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in The In Between” a.k.a. “The Tibetean Book of the Dead“. Highly recommended. It’s chock full of fascinating insights in to the process of death and dying and what they can teach us about how we live our lives.  Been getting the sense that, unwittingly, quite spontaneously, I’ve been experiencing what the Buddhists call “Transcendent Renunciation”.  What the shit is that?!, You ask? I’ll tell ya:

Transcendent renunciation is developed by meditating on the preciousness of human life in terms of the ocean of evolutionary possibilities, the immediacy of death, the inexorability of evolutionary causality and the sufferings of ignorance-driven involuntary life cycle. Renunciation automatically occurs when you come face-to-face with your real existential situation, and so develop a genuine sympathy for yourself, having given up pretending the prison of habitual emotions and confusions is just fine. Meditating on the teachings given on these themes in a systematic way enables you to generate quickly an ambition to gain full control of your body and mind in order at least to face death confidently, knowing you can navigate safely through the dangers of further journeys. Wasting time investing your life in purposes that ‘you cannot take with you’ becomes ludicrous, and when your radically shift your priorities, you feel a profound relief at unburdening yourself of a weight of worry over inconsequential things.

The spirit of enlightenment of love and compassion is the energetic and cheerful aura you create for yourself by shifting the orientation of your life away from self-preoccupation to preoccupation with becoming an enlightened being in order to bring happiness to all others.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. It’s an interesting place to be. Shifting. Unburdening. Releasing attachments. Grateful for the experience. Anywho, Dahr Jamail’s latest dispatches from the Frontlines of Earth’s 6th Great Extinction is a doosy. Read it and weep.” –OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

You can feel it, can’t you?

You already know what is happening to the planet. To Gaia. To Earth. To the only planet humankind will ever “permanently” inhabit. We’ve nowhere else to go but here … this incredible, majestic, beautiful Garden of Eden that has held us, and carried us, this far.

We have ignored the fact that we are, at best, mere stewards. We have forsaken the Earth by fantasizing that the planet was ours to control. To exploit. To manipulate. To drill, mine and desecrate. To gain riches from.

The balance is upset, the die is cast, now we reap the consequences of a whirlwind of forces so vast we cannot comprehend them.

We needn’t look far to see how very far off the climate precipice we have already fallen, as our pace accelerates by the day.

A recent study, Extinction Risk from Climate Change, published in the prestigious journal Nature, shows that half the species on Earth today will likely disappear by the middle of the century — within 33 years. Although this information is devastating, perhaps we should not be surprised, since we’ve known for years now that we have already entered the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event.

Last month, a paper titled The Anthropocene Equation revealed that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is causing the climate to change 170 times faster than it would if only natural forces were affecting it. “The human magnitude of climate change looks more like a meteorite strike than a gradual change,” one of the authors of the study said.

Both NASA and NOAA data showed that this January was the third hottest January ever recorded, with the brunt of the warming extremes occurring, distressingly, in the Arctic. Some anomalies were as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal over the winter.

The amount of dissolved oxygen in Earth’s oceans is currently declining, according to a recently published paper in the journal Nature. This will assuredly have severe consequences for all marine organisms.

For perspective on where we are in relation to what has happened in Earth’s history, National Geographic recently published a piece that shows how sudden and dramatic changes in the planet’s climate have historically been catastrophic for humans, bringing plagues, famines and heat waves. The article highlights the importance of not only the extreme change that is predicted over the next 100 years (4° to 6° Celsius, which could be an extremely conservative estimate), but also the rate of change, as it far exceeds nature’s ability to adapt in order to sustain most life forms. National Geographic goes on to point out that this exceptional rate of change will test adaptability by all global species, including humans, and that over the long term, all of our survival is far from certain.

In 2015, NASA launched a massive mission to study how quickly the oceans are melting Greenland, and the findings that are now coming in are disturbing. While we don’t yet have all of the results, the study has already enabled the lead researchers to provide some broad brushstrokes on what they are finding. “Overall, together I think these papers suggest that the glaciers as a whole are more vulnerable than we thought they were,” Josh Willis, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the principal investigator on the mission told the Washington Post. “We could be in for more sea level rise than we thought,” he added. “And we’re not alone; the fact is that almost every time some new results come out of Greenland or Antarctica, we find these glaciers are more vulnerable than we thought.”

At roughly the same time Willis was making those comments, US satellite data from Antarctica showed that sea ice around that continent had hit a record low. That means that the sea ice around Antarctica has shrunk to its smallest annual extent on record, after having been at its record high just a few years earlier. It’s also worth noting that in mid-February, the Larsen C ice shelf there shed a Manhattan-sized chunk of ice into the sea.

On February 22 Truthout reported that the next major bleaching event to hit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia had begun. A little over two weeks later, the first survey for this year was conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), and the survey confirmed that another mass bleaching event had occurred and was ongoing. “In total, those extreme weather events and the overall impact of climate change is a major threat to the future of the reef,” the GBRMPA’s David Wachenfeld said grimly to the media of his findings.

Closer to home in the US, on February 12 the tallest dam in the country, the Oroville dam, was at risk of disintegrating due to an onslaught of torrential flooding that prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people living downstream. The crisis underscored how infrastructure mechanisms like dams are in no way built to withstand the impacts that ACD is already causing, let alone future impacts.

Truthout published an article that contained an interview with Deborah Moore, who was a commissioner with the World Commission on Dams, an international body that investigated the performance of dam projects across the world. Moore was asked what experts like herself should be looking at in terms of incorporating climate science into engineering design. Her response? “We can no longer use historic data in order to plan these projects because it’s no longer relevant.”

Earth

The evidence of runaway ACD across the land sectors of the planet is glaring.

A recent State of the Environment Report for Australia has warned that ACD could be “irreversible,” and that ACD’s impact to ecosystems continues to increase. “It [ACD] is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems, and affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing,” the report’s summary said. “Evidence shows that the impacts of climate change are increasing, and some of these impacts may be irreversible.”

As if to underscore this point, another report from Australia emerged recently, which showed that country’s wheat productivity has “flatlined” as a direct result of ACD.

Lastly in this section, spring has arrived nearly a full month early for many plants in the Arctic. Scientists have warned of ominous consequences from this, as the change marks the greatest shifting of the spring plant emergence that they have ever observed in the Arctic.

“As a climate scientist who studies the start of spring, I struggle to answer the question, ‘What is spring?'” Heidi Steltzer, a professor at Fort Lewis College and author of the recent scientific paper, told the New York Times. “A longer spring opens up the potential for gaps — points in time when it would be spring with no spring-like events occurring. Would this still be spring?”

Water

As is usually the case in these dispatches, the watery realms are where runaway ACD is the most visible.

Major droughts, which are looking more permanent with each passing year, are persisting around the globe. In Somalia, a country that has had to grow accustomed to drought, words like “unprecedented” and “record-breaking” have begun to lose their meaning. The drought there is now so bad that hyenas won’t even eat the carcasses of goats, sheep and camels that have died, as there isn’t enough meat on their bones to make it worth their while. In early March, in one 48-hour period, at least 110 people died in Somalia from famine and diarrhea resulting from the ongoing drought conditions.

Famine warnings have now been issued for Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia, all of which are experiencing their worst droughts in decades, with no end in sight.

By February, it became clear that the climate in the Arctic was, and had been for several months, already well advanced into abrupt ACD. Temperatures in many areas, including the North Pole, were clocking in between 30°-40°F above normal for extended periods of time, and the Arctic sea ice was hitting record minimum extent levels. In January, what is normally one of the colder months of the year there, sea ice extent was nearly half a million miles below the January 1981-2010 long-term average, an average that was already well below what a healthy preindustrial age sea-ice level would have looked like.

A recent study showed that as Arctic warming continues to ramp up, Canadian glaciers are paying for it dearly; the melt-off from them has risen by a staggering 900 percent. This has now caused them to become a major contributor to sea level rise. Another recent study revealed that of all the permafrost that exists in the global Arctic, at least 10 percent is already melted out.

Anchorage, Alaska will lose its drinking water source before 2100, according to another recent study. The city’s water comes from the Eklutna Glacier, in the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage, which is in the process of melting away, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS) Scientist Louis Sass, the lead author of the study.

“Eklutna looks like it’s going to more or less disappear,” he said, adding that the only question is how long that will take. According to Sass, who this writer accompanied on a USGS glacial survey of another Alaskan glacier twice during 2016, if the climate remains as it was between 2008 and 2015, the Eklutna will be gone by 2100. But, he said recently, if the climate warms more, which of course it will, the timeline could be half that long. To give you an idea of how fast the glacier’s melt rate is increasing: Between 1957-2010, the rate of melting ice there was 5 percent per year. Between 2010-2015, that rate had risen to 7 percent. And during that same period, during hotter years like 2013 and 2015, the rate even reached 13 percent. Farewell, Eklutna.

Meanwhile, sea level rise continues, and coastal regions are paying a price. A recently published study showed that US coastal cities could be flooding three times every single week by 2045. That means, if you buy a home in those areas now, before you finish paying off your 30-year mortgage, you would have a little trouble selling your constantly flooding real estate.

Lastly in this section, even life in the deepest seas is being impacted negatively by runaway ACD. A recently published study has shown that creatures living in the deep ocean are facing major food shortages, rapidly changing temperatures and other human-caused problems. The deep ocean plays an essential role in the sustenance of commercial fishing and also removes major amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, but the study notes that food supply in the deeper areas of the oceans could fall by a stunning 55 percent by 2100, which will of course starve the animals and microbes that live there.

Fire

So much for fire season being in the summer.

In early March, within just a few days, wildfires had torched a 1.5 million acre swath across the Central US, incinerating at least six people. The area, ripe for burning due to ACD-warmed temperatures and an ongoing drought, detonated into fires that spread across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. In addition to the deaths, the fires caused vast amounts of damage: Thousands of people were forced to evacuate, much livestock was burned to death, vast expanses of cropland were lost, and numerous structures went up in flames.

In Kansas, one wildfire burned more than 1,000 square miles, breaking the record for that state’s largest-ever fire. These fires were ongoing in all three states at the time of this writing.

Air

In February near the North Pole, temperatures were 50 degrees warmer than normal, yet again. In one area of Greenland, temperatures surged upwards of 43 degrees in a mere 12 hours as scientists continue to watch in amazement and shock as the Arctic literally goes into meltdown.

Moreover, these dramatic temperatures were simply one of many major heat waves sweeping the planet in February. Temperatures in North Texas reached into the mid-90s by mid-February, and one area in Oklahoma nearly reached 100. At the same time, parts of Australia were baking in 115-degree heat.

February was so hot across much of the US that the Great Lakes’ already weak ice cover was cut down to nearly nothing and ski conditions across the Northeast looked more like they usually do in April. To give you an idea of how hot things have been in the US, according to Climate Central, “There have been 3,146 record highs set for the month-to-date compared to only 27 record lows, ensuring February will go down as the 27th month in a row with more highs than lows. The astonishing 116-to-1 ratio of highs to lows would easily set a record for the most lopsided monthly ratio in history. There have also been 248 monthly record highs and no monthly record lows.”

Evidence of abrupt ACD abounds, including torrential downpours following record-setting drought. This sequence is precisely what we saw in California last month, when an extreme weather event that was referred to as a “bombogenesis” or “weather bomb” brought torrential rains and floods, killed four people, swallowed cars, disrupted flights, and knocked out power for more than 150,000 people.

Additionally, it seems that a previously unforeseen nightmare scenario may have already begun.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its most recent summary, includes the fact that the carbon equivalent contained in Arctic permafrost is 1,400-1,700 gigatons, and the IPCC estimates that by 2100, between 800-1,400 gigatons of carbon will be released into the atmosphere. Currently, humans are emitting roughly 40 Gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere on an annual basis.

Amazingly, while the IPCC does note these amounts of terrestrial carbon in the Arctic from the melting permafrost, they do not include their release and the implications thereof into their modeling predictions. The release of all this extra carbon from melting permafrost represents yet another ACD-driven positive feedback loop: The carbon released from the permafrost will add to atmospheric warming, which will only accelerate the feedback loop by melting more permafrost.

Denial and Reality

Given that we are in the country of Trumpistan, we can now safely assume we will be fed a steady diet of ACD denialism.

With the Trump administration full of ACD deniers, climate scientists are already facing threats, harassment and a very real fear of “McCarthyist attacks.” Abusive and vulgar verbal attacks, and even death threats, have already become the norm.

In just the two months since he entered office, Trump has already undertaken the most ambitious regulatory rollback since the Reagan era and, of course, some of the most dramatic acts of deregulation have been happening on the environmental front. Trump’s frontrunner for the role of science advisor is William Happer, a man who has described climate scientists as a “glassy-eyed cult.” Also in Trump’s denial cabal is Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA (which means he’s the person in charge of destroying that particular agency), who recently publicly questioned whether the EPA is even empowered to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

During a recent interview Pruitt was questioned as to whether he believed ACD was caused by humans, to which he replied: “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

At this moment, it is worth harkening back to a 1991 film produced by the oil giant Shell, which warned that the climate was already changing “at a faster rate than at any time since the end of the ice age.”

The film, titled Climate of Concern, went on to state that the rate of ACD even at that time, more than a quarter of a century ago, was “changing too fast perhaps for life to adapt, without severe dislocation.”

It minced no words, stating that the world was warming and serious consequences could result. “Tropical islands barely afloat even now, first made inhabitable, and then obliterated beneath the waves … coastal lowlands everywhere suffering pollution of precious groundwater, on which so much farming and so many cities depend,” the film narrates. “In a crowded world subject to such adverse shifts of climate, who would take care of such greenhouse refugees?”

Like Exxon, which knew, early on, of the dire consequences of runaway ACD and then covered up the facts, Shell is currently immersed in an elaborate charade, acting for the benefit of its bottom line. Whether the denialists in Trump’s cabinet are engaged in their own charade — or whether they really believe their bizarre rhetoric — no one truly knows, but there’s no doubt that they are acting in the interest of the fossil fuel industry.

Once again, the oil giants have realized profits beyond their wildest dreams, while the consequences continue to be thrust upon every living being on Earth.

“Mananged Retreat” Underway In Coastal Communities Worldwide As Oceans Swell, Coastlines Erode

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2017 at 7:33 pm
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An aerial view of Isle de Jean Charles, in southern Louisiana. PHOTOGRAPH BY WILLIAM WIDMER / REDUX

Oldspeak: “As the world warms, this burgeoning global migration crisis will likely intensify, as

Humankind is in the process of annihilating coastal and ocean ecosystems. At the root of the problem are burgeoning human numbers and their ever-growing needs. Population distribution is increasingly skewed. Recent studies have shown that the overwhelming bulk of humanity is concentrated along or near coasts on just  10% of the earth’s land surface. As of 1998, over half the population of the planet — about 3.2 billion people lives and works in a coastal strip just 200 kilometers wide (120 miles), while a full two-thirds, 4 billion, are found within 400 kilometers of a coast.” –Don Hinrichson

The population of climate refugees is likely to grow, in an unpredictably non-linear fashion. There is a low probability of reversing this trend, as coastal building booms continue to happen around the world and we subsidize people staying in high risk areas. In spite of the billions that stand to be lost due to the cold salty reality that is engulfing the world’s shores. At some point in the not too distant future, many of our bright shining beacons of city dwelling  “civilization” will be drowned by oceans swelling as a result of our terminal hyperconsumptive greed disorder. Will be interesting to see when “managed retreat” becomes a more common part of our lexicon.” -OSJ

Written By John Upton @ Climate Central:

Erosion, rising seas, ferocious storms and other coastal perils have prompted the resettlement of more than 1 million people worldwide, with an exhaustive new analysis highlighting an emerging migration crisis that’s worsening as global warming overwhelms shorelines.

Researchers scoured journal papers, government reports and news articles for examples of what experts call “managed retreat,” analyzing 27 rules, programs and decisions that have led to the abandonment of homes and homelands from Louisiana, New York and Alaska to Thailand, Brazil and Australia.

An estimated 200,000 homes are being built in the Phillipines to house residents who lived within 130 feet of battered coasts when Typhoon Haiyan hit in 2013.
Credit: UNDP/Flickr

“For a long time, the instinct has been to protect everything in place,” said Miyuki Hino, a PhD candidate at Stanford who led the research, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. “It’s only recently that we’re seeing a significant increase in societies in various forms deciding that isn’t the right choice for them.”

Coastal communities facing worsening flooding are responding in different regions by raising roads, rebuilding sand dunes, restoring marshes, upgrading building codes and elevating houses.

Compared to those options for adapting to a harsher climate, each of which can be expensive, the prospect of abandoning developed land can be particularly painful, vexing and divisive.

“Large migrations in response to climatic shifts are well-documented historically,” said Solomon Hsiang, a University of California, Berkeley researcher who has studied how communities and climates interact. He wasn’t involved with the new analysis. “It wouldn’t be surprising for populations to begin moving around today as climate change significantly affects livelihoods.”

The researchers tallied an estimated 1.3 million people who have been relocated worldwide from coasts through managed retreat programs. That’s roughly equivalent to the population of San Diego.

The figure is expected to continue to rise steeply as climate change causes seas to rise and worsens other hardships, such as by intensifying storms.

“Considering ways to manage these movements now is critical to ensuring that our collective reaction to climate change is humane,” Hsiang said.

Seas rose 5 inches in the 20th century and are projected to rise by several feet this century. A Climate Central analysis in late 2015 concluded that high future warming rates would eventually submerge land currently home to more than 470 million people.

Coastal land losses in Louisiana mean these houses, which once were accessible by road, can now only be reached by boat.
Credit: John Upton

Most coastal relocations occur after disasters. Homes on Staten Island and in New Jersey that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy were bought up and razed using FEMA ‘hazard mitigation’ grants, which can be available after presidential disaster declarations.

The Philippines banned rebuilding within 130 feet of coasts after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, forcing an estimated 80,000 to relocate. Hundreds of thousands were resettled in South Asia and Southeast Asia after the 2004 tsunami, with 22,000 homes built in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu for families that had lived within 650 feet of coasts.

Not all resettlement programs follow individual disasters. Some communities are clamoring to move as erosion eats away their lands and homes, for example. Instances of preemptive relocations are rarer, and they generally take longer than post-disaster resettlements.

“In terms of the numbers, we saw by far the largest number of people relocated through what we call mandatory post-disaster relocations,” Stanford’s Hino said. “Starting to think about managed retreat ahead of time requires a major shift in our thinking.”

Tribes that were pushed by U.S. officials to settle near Alaskan coasts beginning in the late 19th century have been trying to relocate away from them, in some cases trying to do so for decades, as global warming helps the sea consume the land around them.

The U.S. is helping to resettle Native Americans from an island in Louisiana, where some of the fastest land losses in the nation are being fueled by flood control projects, gas and oil infrastructure and dredging for ships.

Edward Richards, a Louisiana State University law professor who wasn’t involved with the new analysis, said it would be valuable for other researchers because it provides a new list of instances of managed retreat. “It’s been very difficult for any of us who are interested in this to get a comprehensive list,” he said.

The analysis showed that U.S. programs that subsidize flood insurance and promote coastal rebuilding after disasters are unusual when compared with some other regions, keeping people and property in harm’s way, even as flooding gets worse.

“We basically subsidize people to stay in the high risk area,” Richards said. “We would profoundly change the incentive if the flood insurance program provided positive incentives to relocate.”

Essay: I’m worried having a baby will make climate change worse

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2017 at 8:33 pm
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Sophie Lewis had trouble reconciling her concern for climate change with her desire to be a parent. Photo: Michael Clayton Jones

Oldspeak: You know how I can be fairly certain we’re proper fucked? Because, people are at this last stage in the show, still having this conversation. And this is no average joe having this conversation either, it’s a climate scientist!!! Who presumably knows that having a child ultimately adds about well over 10 thousand tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average parent – about 5.7 times the lifetime emissions for which, on average, a person is responsible. And she is having a child anyway. Not only that, but presumes, fueled by hopium no doubt, that the child will some how, “fix the problems set in motion by its parents and grandparents.” 0_O As if this is even fucking possible at this point. As if having a baby that will live out its natural life is likely to happen. As if this, Earth’s 6th mass extinction, is fixable on human time scales. Oye. I need a shot of what she’s having. Now, I don’t really begrudge people for having babies, since it doesn’t matter either way at this point, but I find it reeeeeallly irksome when people who presumably have an informed opinion on climate change pretend that having kids will some how fix things when it’s abundantly obvious that it won’t. I guess I shouldn’t be terribly surprised in this Post Fact Age. Sigh. Sadly, anthropocentric thinking of this variety is a large part of the reason we’re soooo done.” -OSJ

Written By Sophie Lewis @ The Sydney Morning Herald:

Part of my motivation for becoming a climate scientist was my grave worries for our future and my desire to make a positive contribution. In today’s world, this isn’t straightforward.

Earlier this year, I wrote publicly of my qualms around desiring children. I have always loved children and always wanted children in my own life. At the same time, among my friends and colleagues, such ordinary desires are increasingly accompanied by long, complex conversations about the ethics of such aspirations.

Children born today face a dramatically different climate future than their parents did.A child born today is a child of a changing – and extreme – global climate. The decision to have a child is a decision to exacerbate such climate extremes.

We collectively recycle, switch off lights, install LEDs and chose green energy providers. But such measures are more than negated by a decision to have children; having a child in Australia is an ongoing commitment to a high carbon future.

At the same time that I wrangled with the inter- and intra-generational consequence of having children, I also experienced years of infertility. Friends married, bought houses and announced surprise babies. All the while, my partner and I were consumed by tests, injections and surgeries, but mostly by unrelenting grief.

Over these years, I analysed climate data demonstrating an extreme future born of our global policy prevarication. Meanwhile, I was dragged into an undertow of crushing sadness, as miscarriage followed miscarriage and my connections to the world slipped further away from me.

Perhaps this was all for the best, I thought. After all, a child is irreconcilable with my professional dedication to remedying our global challenges.

And then, just as senselessly as our grief began, it ended. For no particular reason, the expected bad baby news never arrived and now the complexity of having an imagined child will become a concrete ethical entanglement.

Older climate scientists speak widely about their worries for their grandchildren and the world they have provided them. While such concerns must weigh on older minds, younger climate scientists’ future concerns require active deliberation. Should we have children? And if we do, how do we raise them in a world of change and inequity? Can I reconcile my care and concern for the future with such an active and deliberate pursuit of a child?

Put simply, I can’t. Nowadays, the pitter-patter of tiny feet is inevitably the pitter-patter of giant carbon footprints. Reusable nappies, a bike trailer and secondhand jumpsuits might make me feel like I’m taking individual action but they will achieve little. A child born today is inevitably a consumer and, most significantly, is a consumer of greenhouse gases.

Our much longed for child will both exacerbate climate change and will have to fix the problems set in motion by its parents and grandparents. In essence, this burden is the choice I have made for my child.

Having made the decision to multiple my own carbon footprint in perpetuity and to inflict an extreme climate future on my daughter, the question becomes – what now?

Living in and starting a family in volatile and uncertain times are not unique experiences. My grandmother fled Europe in the early 1950s for a better life in Australia. A German Jew, her family had been scattered, with herself interned in Britain, her sister lost in Auschwitz and her family’s desperate flight rebuffed by an indifferent world. Years of horror, combined with strict rations and economic uncertainty drove her to strike out bravely for a new life in Australia with her young babies.

Climate change is a critically different problem. In my grandmother’s time of abject horror, good people were empowered – to varying degrees – to do good. After the war ended, the actions of just a few were recognised as having salvaged the honour of all our humanity. Nowadays, the very act of living in Australia, regardless of concern for our climate future, is detrimental.

I do not pretend my motivation for having children was anything other than entirely selfish, but I hope the consequences are not. Just as in my grandmother’s time when horror was countered by hope, the obverse of our climate challenge is opportunity. I hope today’s children, born of a complex admixture of anxiety, guilt and fear, but all the while fiercely desired, can do better than their parents did. I hope they can be more empathetic, more creative and more responsive than we have been.

As for myself, my work thoughts should be punctured by worry. By senseless luck, my forthcoming daughter will have the opportunity to thrive in a warming world. Many, such as the children of our Pacific Island neighbours, will not. This should prompt more sadness, not less.

Nonetheless, in recognising the sadness of our near neighbours, I also feel compelled to recognise the beauty and opportunity of my own life. Despite my uncomfortable internal conflicts, the impending arrival of a much-wanted baby is intensely joyful.

Study: “Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic, but the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.”

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2017 at 8:02 pm
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On a lake, plumes of gas, most likely methane from the breakdown of carbon in sediments below the lake, keep the water from freezing in spots, outside Fairbanks, Alaska, October 21, 2011. As the Arctic warms, the threat of abrupt methane releases is rising, too. (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times)

Oldspeak: “The study, titled “Methane Hydrate: Killer Cause of Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction,” highlights the fact that the most significant variable in the Permian Mass Extinction event, which occurred 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of all the species on the planet, was methane hydrate.

In the wake of that mass extinction event, less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas lived, and less than one-third of the large land animal species made it. Nearly all the trees died….

The scenario that humans have created by way of the industrial growth society is already mimicking these eventualities, which are certain to worsen….

As the global CO2 concentration continues to climb each year, the threat of even more abrupt methane additions continues to escalate along with it….

Scientists have been warning us for a number of years about the dire consequences of methane hydrates in the Arctic, and how the methane being released poses a potentially disastrous threat to the planet. -Dahr Jamail

“The Methane Time Bomb is still ticking. It won’t stop ticking until it goes boom. Each additional gigaton of anthropogenic and naturally produced  CO2 and CH4 emitted into the atmosphere makes it more likely that this life extinguishing bomb will detonate sooner than later. And, it could happen at any time. Meanwhile, trending now on Yahoo…

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…..” -OSJ

 

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

A scientific study published in the prestigious journal Palaeoworld in December issued a dire — and possibly prophetic — warning, though it garnered little attention in the media.

“Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic,” reads the study’s abstract. “But the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.”

The study, titled “Methane Hydrate: Killer Cause of Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction,” highlights the fact that the most significant variable in the Permian Mass Extinction event, which occurred 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of all the species on the planet, was methane hydrate.

In the wake of that mass extinction event, less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas lived, and less than one-third of the large land animal species made it. Nearly all the trees died.

Methane hydrate, according to the US Office of Fossil Energy, “is a cage-like lattice of ice inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas.”

While there is not a scientific consensus around the cause of the Permian Mass Extinction, it is widely believed that massive volcanism along the Siberian Traps in Russia led to tremendous amounts of CO2 being added to the atmosphere. This then created enough warming to cause the sudden release of methane from the Arctic sea floor, which kicked off a runaway greenhouse effect that led to sea-level increase, de-oxygenation, major oceanic circulation shifts and increased acidification of the oceans, as well as worldwide aridity on land.

The scenario that humans have created by way of the industrial growth society is already mimicking these eventualities, which are certain to worsen.

“The end Permian holds an important lesson for humanity regarding the issue it faces today with greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and climate change,” the abstract of the recent study concludes.

As the global CO2 concentration continues to climb each year, the threat of even more abrupt methane additions continues to escalate along with it.

The Methane Time Bomb

The methane hydrate situation has, for years now, been referred to as the Arctic Methane Time Bomb, and as been studied intensely.

A 2010 scientific analysis led by the UK’s Met Office, published in the journal Review of Geophysics, states clearly that the time scale for the release of methane in the Arctic would be “much shorter for hydrates below shallow waters, such as in the Arctic Ocean,” adding that “significant increases in methane emissions are likely, and catastrophic emissions cannot be ruled out.… The risk of rapid increase in [methane] emissions is real.”

A 2011 study of the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), conducted by more than 20 Arctic experts and published in the Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Sciences, concluded that the shelf was already a powerful supplier of methane to the atmosphere. The conclusion of this study stated that the methane concentration in the atmosphere was at levels capable of causing “a considerable and even catastrophic warming on the Earth.”

Scientists have been warning us for a number of years about the dire consequences of methane hydrates in the Arctic, and how the methane being released poses a potentially disastrous threat to the planet. There has even been a study showing that methane released in the Arctic could trigger “catastrophic climate change” that would cost the global economy $60 trillion.

Of course, that level of planetary heating would likely extinguish most life on the planet, so whatever the economic costs might be would be irrelevant.

“Highly Possible at Any Time”

The ESAS is the largest ice shelf in the world, encompassing more than 2 million square kilometers, or 8 percent of the world’s total area of continental shelf.

In 2015, Truthout spoke with Natalia Shakhova, a research associate professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, about the ESAS’s methane emissions.

“These emissions are prone to be non-gradual (massive, abrupt) for a variety of reasons,” she told Truthout. “The main reason is that the nature of major processes associated with methane releases from subsea permafrost is non-gradual.”

Shakhova warned that a 50-gigaton — that is, 50-billion-ton — “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the ESAS is “highly possible at any time.”

This, Shakhova said, means that methane releases from decaying frozen hydrates could result in emission rates that “could change in order of magnitude in a matter of minutes,” and that there would be nothing “smooth, gradual or controlled” about it. She described it as a “kind of a release [that] is like the unsealing of an over-pressurized pipeline.”

In other words, we could be looking at non-linear releases of methane in amounts that are difficult to fathom.

A study published in the prestigious journal Nature in July 2013 confirmed what Shakhova had been warning us about for years: A 50-gigaton “burp” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is highly possible.

Such a “burp” would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. (For perspective, humans have released approximately 1,475 gigatons in total carbon dioxide since the year 1850.)

The UK’s Met Office considers the 50-gigaton release “plausible,” and in a paper on the subject added, “That may cause ∼12-times increase of modern atmospheric methane burden, with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming.”

 

WMO Scientist: “We are seeing remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory.”

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2017 at 6:40 pm

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Oldspeak: “Sobering news, released in time for World Meteorological Day. Temperature records continue to fall worldwide. Sea levels rising, sea ice melting, the oceans have absorbed more heat than previously thought, extreme weather persisting, Global Weirding is getting weirder. Climate conditions have entered uncharted territory are straining scientists limits of understanding the climate system. Also, scientists are observing more extreme and unusual climactic trends continuing in 2017. We’re off the map now. Will likely be quite an unpredictable and harrowing journey from here on out.” -OSJ

Written By The World Meteorological Organization:

The year 2016 made history, with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.

WMO issued its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate ahead of World Meteorological Day on 23 March. It is based on multiple international datasets maintained independently by global climate analysis centres and information submitted by dozens of WMO Members National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Research Institutes and is an authoritative source of reference. Because the social and economic impacts of climate change have become so important, WMO partnered with other United Nations organizations for the first time this year to include information on these impacts.

“This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year,” he said.

“With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident,” said Mr Taalas.

The increased power of computing tools and the availability of long term climate data have made it possible today, through attribution studies, to demonstrate clearly the existence of links between man-made climate change and many cases of high impact extreme events in particular heatwaves, he said

Each of the 16 years since 2001 has been at least 0.4 °C above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period, used by WMO as a reference for climate change monitoring. Global temperatures continue to be consistent with a warming trend of 0.1 °C to 0.2 °C per decade, according to the WMO report.

The powerful 2015/2016 El Niño event boosted warming in 2016, on top of  long-term climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Temperatures in strong El Niño years, such as 1973, 1983 and 1998, are typically 0.1 °C to 0.2 °C warmer than background levels, and 2016’s temperatures are consistent with that pattern.

Global sea levels rose very strongly during the El Niño event, with the early 2016 values reaching new record highs.  Global sea ice extent dropped more than 4 million square kilometres below average in November, an unprecedented anomaly for that month.

The very warm ocean temperatures contributed to significant coral bleaching and mortality was reported in many tropical waters, with important impacts on marine food chains, ecosystems and fisheries.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per millions in 2015 – the latest year for which WMO global figures are available – and will not fall below that level for many generations to come because of the long-lasting nature of CO2.

Noteworthy extreme events in 2016 included severe droughts that brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern Africa and Central America. Hurricane Matthew caused widespread suffering in Haiti as the first category 4 storm to make landfall since 1963, and inflicted significant economic losses in the United States of America, while heavy rains and floods affected eastern and southern Asia.

WMO has issued annual climate reports for more than 20 years and submits them  to the Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The annual statements complement the assessments reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces every six to seven years.

It will be presented to UN member states and climate experts at a high-level action event on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda  in New York on 23 March (World Meteorological Day) hosted by the President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson.

“The entry into force of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 4 November 2016 represents a historic landmark. It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the Agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies,” said Mr Taalas.

“Continued investment in climate research and observations is vital if our scientific knowledge is to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change,” said Mr Taalas.

Extremes continue in 2017

Newly released studies, which are not included in WMO’s report, indicate that ocean heat content may have increased even more than previously reported.  Provisional data also indicates that there has been no easing in the rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson.

At least three times so far this winter, the Arctic has witnessed the Polar equivalent of a heatwave, with powerful Atlantic storms driving an influx of warm, moist air. This meant that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days which were actually close to melting point. Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years.

Scientific research indicates that changes in the Arctic and melting sea ice is leading to a shift in wider oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns. This is affecting weather in other parts of the world because of waves in the jet stream – the fast moving band of air which helps regulate temperatures.

Thus, some areas, including Canada and much of the USA, were unusually balmy, whilst others, including parts of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa, were unusually cold in early 2017.

In the USA alone, 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied in February, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Prolonged and extreme heat in January and February  affected New South Wales, southern Queensland, South Australia and northern Victoria, and saw many new temperature records.

Notes to Editors

Global temperatures in this Statement are reported using the mean of the latest versions of the three datasets: GISTEMP, NOAAGlobalTemp and HadCRUT maintained respectively  by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US National Air and Space Administration (NASA), and the Met Office Hadley Centre in collaboration with the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, United Kingdom. The combined dataset extends back to 1880. In addition  ERA-Interim reanalysis of the European Center for Medium Weather Forecasting was also used in the assessment.

The statement also uses information on climate impacts provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),  the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and  the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

At the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC session in Marrakesh in 2016, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) welcomed the submissions from WMO: the Global Climate in 2011-2015 and the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. It invited WMO to provide submissions on the state of the global climate on a regular basis, as appropriate, at subsequent SBSTA sessions.

Other highlights of the 2016 Statement

Global Temperatures:

2016’s warmth extended almost worldwide. Temperatures were above the 1961-90 average over the vast majority of the world’s land areas, the only significant exceptions being an area of South America centred on central Argentina, and parts of south-western Australia.

Mean annual temperatures at least 3 °C above the 1961-1990 average occurred in various high-latitude locations, particularly along the Russian coast and in Alaska and far north-western Canada, and on islands in the Barents and Norwegian Seas. In the high Arctic, Svalbard (Norway) Airport’s 2016 mean annual temperature of −0.1 °C was 6.5 °C above the 1961-1990 average, and 1.6 °C above the previous record.

Outside the Arctic, 2016’s warmth was more notable for its consistency across the globe than for its extreme nature in individual locations.

Oceans

Globally averaged sea surface temperatures in 2016 were the warmest on record. The anomalies were strongest in the early months of 2016.

Global ocean heat content was the second-highest on record after 2015. It reached new record highs in the northern hemisphere, but was cooler in the southern hemisphere.

Globally, sea level has risen by 20 cm since the start of the twentieth century, mostly due to thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of glaciers and ice caps. Global sea levels rose very strongly during the 2015/2016 El Niño, rising about 15 millimetres between November 2014 to a new record high in February 2016. This was well above the post-1993 trend of 3 to 3.5 mm per year. From February to August, sea levels remained fairly stable as the influence of the El Niño declined. Final 2016 sea level data are not yet available at the time of writing.

Arctic sea ice

The seasonal maximum, of 14.52 million square kilometres on 24 March, was the lowest in the 1979-2016 satellite record. The 2016 autumn freeze-up was exceptionally slow – with sea ice extent even contracting for a few days in mid-November.

Precipitation

Much of southern Africa began the year in severe drought. For the second year in succession, rainfall was widely 20 to 60% below average for the summer rainy season (October to April) in 2015/2016. The World Food Programme estimating that 18.2 million people would require emergency assistance by early 2017.

Provisional figures showed 2016 was the driest on record over the Amazon Basin, and there was also significant drought in north-east Brazil.  El Niño brought drought conditions elsewhere in Central America and northern South America.

The Yangtze basin in China experienced, overall, its most significant flood season since 1999, with some tributaries experiencing record flood levels. Averaged over China as a whole, it was the wettest year on record, with national mean rainfall of 730 mm being 16% above the long-term average.

Heatwaves

The year started with an extreme heatwave in southern Africa in the first week of January. On 7 January, it reached 42.7 °C at Pretoria and 38.9 °C at Johannesburg, both of which were 3 °C or more above the all-time records at those sites.

Extreme heat also affected South and South-East Asia in April and May, prior to the start of the summer monsoon. South-East Asia was badly affected in April. A national record of 44.6 °C was set at Mae Hong Son, Thailand, on 28 April, and 51.0 °C was observed on 19 May at Phalodi, the highest temperature on record for India.

Record or near-record temperatures occurred in parts of the Middle East and north Africa. The highest temperature observed was 54.0 °C at Mitribah (Kuwait) on 21 July which (subject to ratification) will be the highest temperature on record for Asia. Other extremely high temperatures included 53.9 °C at Basra (Iraq) and 53.0 °C at Delhoran (Islamic Republic of Iran – a national record), both on 22 July, whilst significant high temperatures were also reported in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and the United Arab Emirates.

A late-season heatwave affected many parts of western and central Europe in the first half of September. In southern Spain, 45.4 °C was recorded at Cordoba on 6 September.

The WMO Statement on the State of the Climate in 2016 is available here:

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The World Meteorological Organization is the United Nations System’s authoritative voice on Weather, Climate and Water

WMO website: public.wmo.int

For more information, please contact:  Clare Nullis, Press Officer, Communications and Public Affairs,

Tel: +41 22 730 8478 or +41 79 709 13 97 (cell), e‑mail: cnullis@wmo.int.

 

Don’t Get Distracted: The Reality Of Extinction Must Trump The Sideshow

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2017 at 4:22 pm

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Oldspeak: “As we fix our collective and terrified gaze on the (dangerous) antics of a canny bully and his gang, more and more evidence emerges to suggest that no matter what they do, what any of us do, our species’ time on this planet is rapidly drawing to a close. Certainly that which we term ‘civilization’ is well into its final act.  Trump and his cronies are an engine that will vastly accelerate this near inevitability, but the greater decimation is not of his making.

Very few of us would like to look in this direction, to consider the increasing probability, for instance, that most of the children born this year may not make it to middle-age, quite possibly not even to adulthood.  Even in first world countries. Even in the upper economic echelons of first world countries. This reality—as opposed to the surreality emerging from the White House– appears to offer so little to work with, to engage with, to, well…DO.  As humans, most of us like to DO, and we like to find ways to feel valid and hopeful and good about our lives.  It isn’t always easy and the specter of repeatedly chosen self-destruction looms darkly right now, acknowledged or not. Survival fears, well-founded ones that currently spark in a panoply of flavors, drive many of us, intent upon finding comfort, into unconsciousness, denial, frantic action.

Joining with others—virtually or in person—who share righteous outrage at violations of decency and morality and law—this can alleviate the sense of helplessness.  Being angry, being right, being in solidarity are all energizing anodynes for despair and disempowerment.  A case could be put that the Women’s Marches in January made very prominent important points of view that oppose the administration’s. Which is something. But did all those pussy hats, did the speeches and the songs and huge numbers of human beings in the streets accomplish anything concrete?  Did anyone on Wall Street quake?  Even a little? Did the leadership of the infamous 17 intelligence agencies feel more inclined to act lawfully afterward?  Did the administration think twice about its intention to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement?  (This latter being much too little, much too late, and yet we hold fast to the tiny strands, hoping that we can turn this raft around before that roaring ahead reveals itself to be the Niagara, falling.)  We all suspect strongly that the answers are consistently in the negative. The impact of protest and civil disobedience hinges heavily upon a state’s capacity for shame, on it’s having a conscience. Neither of those are much in evidence these days.” –Elizabeth West

“I get it. When an entire society, and I would argue the vast majority of modern human civilization is struggling with the effects of chronic complex post traumatic stress disorder, and acute survival sickness, it can be very difficult to cope with and process beyond human scale traumatic realities. But at some point, it has to sink in that what is, Is. That there is nothing to be done about it. That there is no way to fix it. That marching around, getting all worked up about what kleptocrats do and don’t do, “climate negotiators” signing international treaties have next to zero effect on the sociopathic transnational kleptocracy, without conscience, shame or morality that mediates our existence in the current set of living arrangements. At some point, we have to look beyond the distractions of this “spectacle of incoherence” and get better acquainted with the desert of the real. Civilization is probably in its final act.  We have to start coming to grips with that. And in the words of  Ms West; “…seize the day.  Be who you are here to be.  Be who you want to be.  Don’t hold back and don’t wait.  Fight for what you believe in, but don’t forget to live fully, unfurled, as yourself. Word. The Matrix cannot tell you who you are. :-)”-OSJ

Written By Elizabeth West @ Counterpunch:

In this post-truth era, when the splashy surreal stands in for the real, it pays to be extremely vigilant about where our attention gets focused. It is understandable that we become snagged on the unfathomable. How can one fathom that which is beyond belief?  Our poor brains just cannot wrap themselves around the garbage that is being offered up as reality, as reasonable human conduct, or god forbid, as governance. And how can we avoid returning to look at the wreckage, to try again and again to grasp the insanity and the absurdity, to ask how this came to pass?  It is compelling—in the manner of a fiery highway crash– and with the help of the media, we can spend vast amounts of time and energy, mesmerized in disbelief and horror, focused on Donald Trump.  Is there a more perfect definition of armchair hell? And if by chance we drop into our hearts, there is no question that the circus feeds pain and dread there, increasing the urgency of our attentions and the levels of our anxieties.

I have absolutely no doubt that the Trump administration and their lackeys in Congress will cause unimaginable suffering for individuals all over the planet, even as they blow up the still-standing ruins of American democracy. This goes almost without saying, but I say it none-the-less for foundational purposes, to acknowledge the terrible significance of the real actions/inactions being underwritten by our current government.

But friends, this is a sideshow. A riveting one to be sure, replete with drama, true trauma, tragedy and comedy, but a side-show all the same, run by a carnival barker who knows well how to keep us turning his way.

As we fix our collective and terrified gaze on the (dangerous) antics of a canny bully and his gang, more and more evidence emerges to suggest that no matter what they do, what any of us do, our species’ time on this planet is rapidly drawing to a close. Certainly that which we term ‘civilization’ is well into its final act.  Trump and his cronies are an engine that will vastly accelerate this near inevitability, but the greater decimation is not of his making.

Very few of us would like to look in this direction, to consider the increasing probability, for instance, that most of the children born this year may not make it to middle-age, quite possibly not even to adulthood.  Even in first world countries. Even in the upper economic echelons of first world countries. This reality—as opposed to the surreality emerging from the White House– appears to offer so little to work with, to engage with, to, well…DO.  As humans, most of us like to DO, and we like to find ways to feel valid and hopeful and good about our lives.  It isn’t always easy and the specter of repeatedly chosen self-destruction looms darkly right now, acknowledged or not. Survival fears, well-founded ones that currently spark in a panoply of flavors, drive many of us, intent upon finding comfort, into unconsciousness, denial, frantic action.

Joining with others—virtually or in person—who share righteous outrage at violations of decency and morality and law—this can alleviate the sense of helplessness.  Being angry, being right, being in solidarity are all energizing anodynes for despair and disempowerment.  A case could be put that the Women’s Marches in January made very prominent important points of view that oppose the administration’s. Which is something. But did all those pussy hats, did the speeches and the songs and huge numbers of human beings in the streets accomplish anything concrete?  Did anyone on Wall Street quake?  Even a little? Did the leadership of the infamous 17 intelligence agencies feel more inclined to act lawfully afterward?  Did the administration think twice about its intention to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement?  (This latter being much too little, much too late, and yet we hold fast to the tiny strands, hoping that we can turn this raft around before that roaring ahead reveals itself to be the Niagara, falling.)  We all suspect strongly that the answers are consistently in the negative. The impact of protest and civil disobedience hinges heavily upon a state’s capacity for shame, on it’s having a conscience. Neither of those are much in evidence these days. Let’s not forget that 30-some million people out on the streets worldwide in early 2003 didn’t manage to slow down the rollout of Shock and Awe at all.

But what if we ask another set of questions, having to do with the hearts and minds of those who participated and those who couldn’t but would have liked to? Then we see the value of coming together and coming out to state in positive ways who we are and what we believe. We embolden and affirm one another. And perhaps—perhaps– someone with a bit of power is moved in ways we cannot and will never see.  Maybe the airport demonstrations actually created enough ‘drag’ to delay the zealots for a few weeks, weeks that meant the world to a number of individuals.

So, activism is worthwhile. We can make our passions known through public displays, we can organize locally to make change in that arena, we can write and make movies and record songs all to disseminate the truth, we can choose differently about what and how we consume, or drive, or educate our children.  We can direct our resources to support what we believe.

Each of us is responsible for considering how we contribute to or diminish the common good, for knowing and living up to our own capacities in this regard.  You know what you can do, and you also know what can’t do.  You also know—for yourself– what alleviates the feelings of panic and rage, and what leaves you feeling hopeless and despairing.

Which brings me back to the likelihood that we are now in the midst of the Grand Finale.  Why would anyone want to think about the prospect that we are rapidly approaching our own self-orchestrated extinction event? Too late to alter outcomes, we may see but two choices: helpless contemplation of a bleak and dystopian future that ends in rubble, or taking a smidgeon of control and tuning it all out, changing the station, and maybe even revving up a little over the ‘All Trump All The Time’ news.  It seems pretty simple.  If there is nothing to be done, then why make ourselves sick and sad and depressed over that which can’t be changed?  And there is no denying that there are sideshows aplenty to divert us if we are so inclined.  Maybe we can even DO something about the social and civil disasters.

Imagine this: you are in a hospital bed recovering from major surgery.  You are starting to remember who you are and why you are here and what is at stake.  The pain is pretty bad, but you can manage it if you keep downing narcotics, if the healing continues apace, if you can get back to your real life soon. The doctor arrives to check on you.  She appears to be kind and encouraging and competent, and yet you can read the bad news on her face before she speaks. When she does, she tells you that the pathology was not good, that short of keeping you ‘comfortable,’ there is little more that medicine has to offer.

How could this be?  Just a few weeks ago, all was well and you were looking forward to a new trajectory in your life.  Maybe a grandchild, maybe a grand opus, maybe a love just beginning.  But here you are: in bed, suffering, having just received the diagnosis: you are terminal.

So what do you want to do?  Are there things you don’t want to leave this life not having done?  Or been?  Books to read?  Conversations to have?  Amends to make?  Places to see?  Habits to break?  Things to learn?  Truths to tell? Do you want to find peace?  Forgive yourself or someone else?  Do you want to let go of fear?  Do you want to love with all your heart?

If you wish to make the most of the time that remains, you need to live with death on your left shoulder, as many shamanic traditions advise.  You must not put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Time is precious if you have limited quantities of it and you have living left to do.  When we reach this juncture, as most of us will, some will ramp up the fight to live, others will wander lost in sorrow. Some of us will use all of our energy to uphold the scaffolding of denial and still others will spend their final weeks or months in anger and regret.  When we are facing almost certain death, the options are limited.  It is, after all, a fundamental loss of control.  But we can choose how we live while we are alive. That may be all that is left to us.

You will see where I am going with this. As a species, Homo sapiens could well be on its last upright legs.  That means you.  It means me. It means our beloved children and everyone we hold dear. And it is quite likely that another round of chemo (e.g., the Paris Agreement) will forestall the inevitable only slightly.

This is heartbreaking, a virtual definition of tragedy.  It didn’t have to be this way, and yet something (the fatal flaw?) has brought us as a species to this pass.  (I leave aside for the moment all the other species we have carelessly dragged down with or ahead of us.)  Serious scientists and thinkers are writing in increasing numbers that we need to consider the possibility our children will not live out their ‘natural’ lives.  Google human extinction (57 million hits in .66 second), or try the search feature on CounterPunch for substantive reporting on our prospects.

It is almost too grievous to look at full on.  But if we fail to do so, we may lose the impetus to live our lives as truly and as gloriously and as deeply as is possible.  You may want to spend some of the last part of your life watching everything Fred Astaire ever danced, or you might want to read Nietzsche at last, or you could have a passion to swim with the dolphins (if they consent).  Maybe it is your longing to stand in front of an IDF (or American) tank in the purest affirmation of human empathy and courage you can muster, or perhaps have always felt poetry rising within but never committed those jewels to paper.  Whatever it is—know it.  And then, do it.  Live it.  Feel it.  Be it.  We are all in that hospital bed, whether we allow ourselves to feel the truth of it or not.  Miracles do happen and there is no need to be defeated.  But as is often said, we have only this moment.  Trite, but never truer.

So I joyfully suggest that we seize the day.  Be who you are here to be.  Be who you want to be.  Don’t hold back and don’t wait.  Fight for what you believe in, but don’t forget to live fully, unfurled, as yourself.  There may be no one in the future to look back and remember or celebrate us, but we do have this time, precious time to be-here-now, to share our love, our wisdom, our gifts; to rejoice in the many and gorgeous offerings of other humans, the scent of apple blossoms on the evening breeze, geese honking as they wing overhead. Despite what might be a fatal flaw, we are an extraordinary, profoundly beautiful invention.  A failure to endure forever need not diminish that reality. So let’s live our humanness all the way, while we can, while we are here.  And please, don’t let anyone, no matter how surreal, no matter how mad, rob you of the right to make that choice.

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Elizabeth West lives, writes and strives to find beauty and joy less than half a mile from the Chevron refinery in Richmond CA. She can be reached at elizabethwest@sonic.net.